How to Remove Brass From a Spent Shotgun Shell

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All other methods I've found online suggest using a candle or lighter to heat up the brass, which will partially melt the plastic. However, common sense says that leftover gun powder (which is highly flammable) that may be left over in an expired shell probably shouldn't be exposed to an open flame, unless you really desire to be blown to pieces. I personally don't, so I've devised a way that makes it somewhat safer. I don't take any responsibility if you're a dumba$$, though.

Materials:
Spent shotgun shells
Iron
Vice grip
Rag/scrap fabric
Knitting needle/chopstick or similar tool
2 sets of pliers

Step 1: Remove the Primer

Using a shotgun shell reloader, a hammer and nail, or any other method you choose, remove the shotgun primer.

Step 2: Clean the Shells

Take a piece of scrap fabric or a rag. Carefully wipe down the outside of each shell and then wrap the rag around something like a chopstick or knitting needle or similar tool to really clean inside the shell. Be careful to clean out any remaining gun powder that may still be in there.

Step 3: Wash Your Hands

Get any gun powder off your hands, clothes, and work area.

Step 4: Set Up Your Iron

Set up your iron in some way that will securely hold it with the flat side up--I used a vice grip. Put your iron on a medium high/high setting.

Step 5: Start Melting the Shotgun Shells

Put your clean shotgun shells on the iron (brass side down). You can start by doing one or two at a time, then work up to doing as many as will fit on the iron. The length of time you leave it on the iron depends on several factors:
--The age of your iron
--The brand/gauge of shells
--What material the wad is made out of (plastic ones melt easier than ones that have felt and cork)

I have an old iron, I used a lot of Winchester 12g shells that all had plastic wads, and I filled up my iron and left them on there for about 2 minutes.

Be smart--don't walk away and forget what you're doing and be careful when kids and pets are around

Step 6: Remove the Brass

Take a shell off the iron and, using one of the pliers, grab it a little bit above the brass. Take the other set of pliers and grab it right on the brass. Twist in opposite directions a few times and it should pop right off. If it's not turning, put it back on the iron for a few more seconds. The brass is now separated from the plastic.

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8 Discussions

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SamuelM231

3 months ago

A question-Why do you want to remove the "brass" from the shotshell? Most all of the so called brass on shotgun shells are really plated steel, a few are real brass, however not many. A test to see what you are working with is to touch the metal in question with a small magnet, and of course the magnet will not be attracted to the brass. I can't see the purpose of doing this. If you want to recycle the metal, brass or steel, you will be using a lot of electricity which will offset the green value of the recycling. Is this for some kind of art project? If you want to reuse the shotgun shell material to prevent it from going into a landfill save up as many undamaged shells as you can get and offer them to reloaders for free or a very small donation. But, if you insist on removing the metal, know that some primers leave a residue that can be toxic. Since you are going to destroy the shell anyway, clean the inside with soapy water first and leave the spent primers in. Also, some powders can leave harmful residue if you come into contact with enough of it. You are correct telling people to wash up. Also keep the kiddies away.

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No nonsense

4 months ago on Introduction

99.9% of the powder is spent. I understand for your liability, you need to say something. But the very minimal amount of powder is of such minimal danger. Blackpowder would be more dangerous.

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Boykin264

1 year ago

An easy way to clean the shells before you start with the iron is to go to a laundry mat and dump your spent shells in a side loading (just need one without an agitator) washer with some detergent and they will be sparkly clean for any projects. I did this before so glue would stick better for a framed flag I was making. Carry something to listen to with headphones and go when it's not busy because it can be kinda loud.

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Sharpie762

2 years ago

What would you use the brass for? Do you do this to take in the brass for recycling?

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ALD3

4 years ago

If any of you have the metal discoloration from heating them, I had some. Just use some metal polish and it will polish up better than it was. A bottle is only 2-3.00 and will do many shells. Use paper towels or an old rag.

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gunshw301

4 years ago

Did this years ago with a pan on the stove. My only mistake was assuming it was brass, turns out it was coated steel.

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fred3655

4 years ago

There won't be any danger from unspent powder blowing you to bits, powder may smoke and stink up your house, please do this outside or in a well ventilated area! Good Instructable.